How many of you have any of these symptoms, especially the women? Here are the symptoms: fatigue, depression, fibromyalgia, weight gain, migraines, PMS, irritability, fluid retention, hair loss, dry skin and/or hair, thinning eyebrows, insomnia, anxiety with or without panic attacks, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma/allergies, irregular periods, decreased memory, decreased concentration, muscle/joint aches, low sex drive, carpal tunnel syndrome, or hives. How many of these symptoms do your have? These symptoms represent low thyroid function. You don’t need them all, but if you just have a couple of them you likely have low thyroid – despite the fact that your doctor tells you your thyroid levels are normal. That’s the kicker.
And, if you have these symptoms what can you do about it? Quite a bit actually. First, a quick discussion on thyroid tests.
There are several thryoid tests. Most doctors check only a TSH level which is made in the pituitary gland. TSH travels to the thyroid gland in your neck region and tells the the thyroid to make thyroid hormones – mainly T4 and T3. Most T3 is made, however, from conversion from T4. But, that conversion is affected by disease, acute illness, age, and medications. This important to appreciate because T3 is 4-5 times more biologically active than T4. T3 is what you want at the end of the day.
The thought is if you are not making enough T4 and/or T3 the body will compensate and make more TSH in attempt to stimulate more thryoid production. So a high TSH suggests low thyroid function. But, why not just check T3 and T4 levels directly? That seems to make more sense. Check what you actually want to know! But, that’s not what doctors are taught. We are taught to check a TSH and if high then a T4. And, if T4 is low then give the patient a T4 replacement. But if the T4 doesn’t convert to T3, guess what? The patient’s symptoms won’t improve, at least not much.
Secondly, by convention the reference range for thyroid levels encompasses the middle 95% (two standard deviations from the mean in both directions). That means by using laboratory criteria only, that only 2.5% of the population can ever have “low thyroid” and 2.5% have “high thyroid”. Yet, about 30-40% of the population has symptoms consistent with low thyroid.
Thyroid and Temperature
Here’s the key point to this discussion. It’s virtually impossible to have symptoms of low thyroid and have a normal body temperature. A lot of people say their body temperature is below normal. It’s not normal (healthy) to have a low body temperature.
If you have symptoms suggestive of low thyroid then you probably have a lower than normal body temperature. Body temperature is interesting. It may be the parameter most consistent in all of us despite age, race, or gender. It should be 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit or darn close. If below 98 degrees you most likely have low thyroid despite “normal thyroid tests”.
In fact, one way to treat low thyroid is to titrate thyroid medication upward until body temperature normalizes. This is a most useful approach in those who have “normal” thyroid tests.
How to Check Your Temperature
Check your temperature 3 times a day 3 hours apart for a few days. Take an oral temperature. Take the first temperature about 3 hours after waking up. So if you wake up at 7 AM take your temperature at 10 AM then again at 1 PM, and one last time at 4 PM.
What Messes with Thyroid Function?
Don’t mess with Texas and don’t mess with the thryoid gland. But we do – mess around with the thyroid gland that is. Lot’s of things mess with the thyroid. They include: childbirth, any type of stress (death of a loved one, divorce, work-related stress, etc), surgery and accidents, gluten sensitivity, heavy metal toxicity, intake of bromine, fluorine, and chloride and medications. If you remember the periodic table in chemistry bromine, fluorine, chloride, and iodine which is essential for thryoid hormone production, are all members of the halogen family. Bromine, fluorine, and chloride will displace iodine interfering with thryoid production. Fluorine and chloride you are familiar with. Bromine has been used in baked goods since the 1980s and is found in some medications. You need to limit your consumption of bromine/bromide as much as possible to optimize your thryoid function.
In an upcoming post we will discuss what you can do to improve your thryoid function without taking medications.